walking to the grocery store after school for a taxi

Slice of Life

Slice of Life


Before moving to Indonesia, my experiences with taxis usually involved being in a big city on vacation: New York or Chicago or Seoul. In Jakarta, they’re a part of my daily life as I have decided not to own a car.

The ease with which I use them became apparent when, at a church service, I randomly chatted with a professor visiting from my alma mater in Michigan. She was on a 2 week exchange program with a local university. When we mentioned the possibility of a bunch of us meeting up for dinner, she said that her hosts had her advised her not to take taxis. They had a car and driver. She admired our adventurous spirit.

Taking a taxi? Adventurous? It was like telling someone who drives, that driving a car was daring.

bluebirds at giant

bluebirds at giant

Why don’t we take buses or subways? Indonesia does not have the infrastructure. Yet. It’s promised for 2014. So in the meantime: taxis.

Taxis can be ordered by phone or smartphone app. The most trusted company in my area is called, Blue Bird. There are even minivans called, Big Birds (still blue, sadly). The phone operators usually speak English when you ring up to order a taxi. They recognize me now by my phone number–which you have to give slowly and succinctly. “Oh, Miss Jackie, Ya?” they’ll say, once I’ve finished with my long long Indonesian phone number.

If you can’t order a taxi–say it’s pouring rain and the lines are busy–you always need to have an umbrella and good rubber shoes (Crocs in all styles are popular here) at the ready to walk to the places were taxis congregate. Sometimes on a shady street. In my case, at the supermarket, Giant, up the road from my school.

I pass ojek (motorbike) drivers who call to me as I walk to the grocery store to find my taxi. I love taking motorbikes, but the stakes are high–so risky. People have sustained injuries.

10000 rupiah equals a US dollar

10000 rupiah equals a US dollar

So safely buckled into a seatbelt I’ve dug out from between the seat in a taxi, I speak the most Indonesian I know, “Lurus terus, Pak” (Continue straight, uncle / sir), “Kiri / kanan, Pak” (left / right). Then fish for my 10,000+ rupiah–which sounds like a lot–but is usually a little more than $2 USD.

The friendly drivers are usually looking into the rearview mirror asking, “Anda dari mana, Miss?” (Where are you from?) So friendly.

Soon, “Di sini, Pak.” (Here, Sir.)



About jaclynfre

Tech integration specialist, recipe adventurer, fast walker, sporadic writer, aunt, sister and daughter
This entry was posted in life and culture, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to walking to the grocery store after school for a taxi

  1. aggiekesler says:

    I have yet to visit Indonesia, but I’ve had my fair share of crazy taxi experiences while living in Shanghai and traveling southeast Asia. How do you like Indonesia?

  2. GirlGriot says:

    I’ve had to wean myself off taxis because the fares have gotten so high — $2+ just to get in a taxi here. I loved your slice. It’s interesting that your professor’s hosts had warned her against something you take on so easily and naturally. I wonder what shifted their perspective (… perhaps the ability to have their own car and driver).

    • jaclynfre says:

      Stacie, Do you live in the US? I’ll have to check out your posts? Taxis in the US are ridiculously priced after you’ve been other places.

      I think that some people who only have drivers have the impression that taxi drivers take advantage of boles or foreigners. This does happen–when “accidental” U-turns or going the opposite direction “unintentionally” can happen. It’s a hazard of not owning a car–but there are plenty of considerations, on the flip side, of trying to drive in the insane traffic here or purchasing a car without financing and hiring a driver.

      • GirlGriot says:

        Hi– I’m in New York, and our cab drivers also have the reputation of cheating customers. Maybe that’s just something people think about cabs? (Based on the sometimes-truth that it really does happen?)

  3. I have never been to Indonesia. I like your answer at the end. Home… And yes, it does sound like you are an adventurous person.

    • jaclynfre says:

      Jackie, I am not very adventurous. I am a home-y person. In fact, I wasn’t planning to teach internationally ever. But when you decide to take that plunge–things happen naturally that give the impression of being adventurous.

      I definitely miss coming home in my own car. Preparing dinner. Watching my shows on the DVR. That sounds exotic and so appealing at times–now. 🙂

  4. Ramona says:

    When we visited Chile we actually hired a taxi driver for a day. We still pass his name along to friends who are headed to Chile. One night my daughter and a group of friends were stranded without a taxi driver, and she called him. They were amazed that she had a taxi driver’s personal phone number. It was reassuring to me that she could reach him in a pinch.

    • jaclynfre says:

      The phone number of a reliable taxi driver is GOLD!! Thanks for sharing this story. I do keep a collection of taxi driver phone numbers–mostly because I ask them to wait for me when I go inside certain grocery stores where there isn’t a bank of taxis. Then I can call them when I’m ready to leave. It’s nice to be able to call them to places when the taxis seem scarce. But, I also find that when I go from my suburb into Jakarta, frequently drivers–bless them–don’t have accurate GPS so instead hop out every 5 minutes to have a conversation with people on the street about the address where I am going. I miss the GPS in my car at home.

      Chile sounds intriguing!! I want to hear more of your adventures there.

  5. Betsy says:

    I like the ending here as you set up the comfort of the taxi and the safety of it all. It’s amazing that something so universal can be so different.

    • jaclynfre says:

      Thanks for checking out the post, Betsy!! Taxis with Indonesian drivers are like being in a car with very friendly uncles from “the old country”–who don’t mind being bossed around. They’re indulgent, but with a sense of humor, always looking for a way to crack a simple joke or connect with you by asking visiting relative-like questions. “Are you married?”

  6. Beth says:

    Enjoyed this, Jackie!

  7. Pingback: back in the saddle . . . the dangerously insane saddle | jakartajackie

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